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People hold signs calling for U.S. President Joe Biden to support a Green New Deal and end his support of pipelines and the fossil fuel industry in St. Paul on January 29, 2021. (Photo: Tim Evans/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

People hold signs calling for U.S. President Joe Biden to support a Green New Deal and end his support of pipelines and the fossil fuel industry in St. Paul on January 29, 2021. (Photo: Tim Evans/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Climate Campaigners Demand 'Action, Not Words' After Biden's 'Code Red' Comments

"If President Biden believes this is an actual 'code red' situation, he should treat it as such by declaring a climate emergency immediately through an executive order and stopping all fossil fuel projects."

Brett Wilkins

Responding to U.S. President Joe Biden's recent comments calling the climate emergency a "code red" situation, environmental and Indigenous leaders representing a coalition of advocacy groups on Thursday implored the administration to act accordingly by declaring a climate emergency and stopping all fossil fuel projects.

"In the face of the climate crisis, we should not be expanding the fossil fuel industry and allowing the government to subsidize and hand off funds to the fossil fuel industry."
—Tara Houska, Giniw Collective

"President Biden has acknowledged that the climate crisis is here. In fact, to quote him, he said 'climate change poses an existential threat to our lives and our economy, and the threat is here,'" Jane Kleeb, president and founder of Bold Alliance and Bold Nebraska, said during a press call organized by the Build Back Fossil Free campaign.

Kleeb referenced Biden's Tuesday visit to the Tri-State Area in the wake of the deadly devastation wrought by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, during which he said: "They all tell us this is code red. The nation and the world are in peril. And that's not hyperbole. That is a fact."

"Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, our economy, and the threat is here," the president added. "It's not going to get any better. The question is: Can it get worse?"

Kleeb replied that "all of us who work with frontline communities are here to answer President Biden's question: It can get worse—and with his administration's decisions—it is getting worse."

"President Biden has the full authority right now—without Congress—to hit a pause button on all proposed fossil fuel projects," she said. "If President Biden believes this is an actual 'code red' situation, he should treat it as such by declaring a climate emergency immediately through an executive order and stopping all fossil fuel projects."

While Biden delighted climate campaigners by rescinding the federal permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office, the president has disappointed many activists by declining to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), as well as for defending a massive Trump-era drilling project in Alaska, and for so far refusing to cancel Enbridge's Line 3 project.

"Over 800 of us have been arrested fighting against the Line 3 tar sands expansion project," Giniw Collective founder Tara Houska said on the call. "To hear President Biden talk about the climate emergency as 'code red' yet knowing that he has said absolutely nothing about the brutalization that's occurred of water protectors, and the collaboration between state and private interests in this fight, is hypocrisy."

Underscoring the dissonance between Biden's often lofty rhetoric and his administration's actions in the face of a worsening emergency, climate campaigners on Thursday responded with alarm after the president tapped Willie L. Phillips—who Food & Water Watch policy director Mitch Jones said "spent his career working on the side of the oil and gas industry and electric utility giants"—to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

"In the face of the climate crisis, we should not be expanding the fossil fuel industry and allowing the government to subsidize and hand off funds to the fossil fuel industry," said Houska. "It'd be good to see action, not words."


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